Gun incidents rose 40 percent in Minneapolis last year, the first significant jump in years following a long-term downward trend in gun-related cases.
The gun incidents in the city report being released Wednesday include people being shot or shot at, reports of gunshot wounds or a gun used in a crime.
Two top law enforcement officials said it’s too soon to say whether the report’s findings signaled the beginning of something new in crime, and pointed instead to the long-term decline.
“Minneapolis is on the right track,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who said the city should stick with its strategies for fighting gun crime. Those things include “going after violent offenders, removing illegal guns, working on the gangs and narcotics problems, and most importantly they leverage their partnerships with other agencies,” he said.
Other highlights in the report, called Results Minneapolis, include a rise in cellphone thefts, a rise in police response times and a drop in internal affairs complaints from 1,427 in 2012 to 934 in 2013. The report also said the department, despite being led by a woman for the first time, had a smaller percentage of female officers last year (15 percent) than it did 10 years previously (16.4 percent).
The sharp rise in gun incidents comes at a time when it’s still far too easy for young people to find illegal guns on the street, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
“We’re like the kid with a finger in the dike against this flood of guns,” he said. His office built a website, www.changethestoryhennepin.com, that addresses youth and gun violence. It includes the statistic that 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms nationwide in 2010, a rate of one injury every 30 minutes.
“Over the last six years we’ve seen a profound drop in violent crime overall,” he said. “Looking at it from a longer point of view, we’ve made a lot of progress.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Violent crimes include robbery, aggravated assault, rape and homicide, and the long-term trend in Minneapolis and cities elsewhere has been a story of lower and lower rates of violent crime. The city recorded 4,090 violent crimes in 2013, which is among the lowest numbers reported in the past 10 years. The short-term trend has seen violent crime rise, however, from 3,812 cases in 2011 to last year’s number.
The proliferation of cellphones and social media also makes it easier than ever to report a crime, which could push crime statistics up somewhat, Stanek said. Some 75 percent of the 911 calls received today come from cellphones, he said.
The report said cellphone thefts rose sharply last year, from 919 in 2012 to 1,418 in 2013, but new legislation aimed at the problem should bring changes to phone technology next year. The software would allow a phone owner to shut down the phone after it’s been stolen and the owner could restore the phone using a password.
• The department cleared more burglary cases in 2013, part of an upward trend that stretches back several years, though it’s just 13 percent. Still, that’s slightly above the national average of 12.4 percent, according to Minneapolis police and FBI figures.
• Some 12,313 times last year, a police officer walked through a building, part of the department’s push to get cops out of cars while patrolling.
• Police response times rose to 9 minutes, 14 seconds for cases considered top priority and to 35 minutes, 58 seconds for the lowest-priority cases. That’s the slowest response times since 2008, when they were 8:33 and 29:05, respectively.
• The percentage of sworn employees of color has risen from 16.5 percent in 2003 to 20.5 percent today.
• The number of civilian employees within the department has fallen sharply over the past 10 years, from 212 in 2003 to 127 last year.